Civil Union Act debate begins: Senator Pat Steadman says public is ready for measure

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In Steadman's view, "This is something that's very overdue. In two recent opinion polls, 72 percent of Coloradans said they support a law like this. I think that tells us the public is more than ready for it. And I"ve had an overwhelming response from my constituents and people across the state who are very hopeful that this rule becomes law, so that their families and children can have the same protection as other families across Colorado."

For instance, he continues, "there are a lot of protections in the probate court that protect you in times of incapacity or upon the death of a partner that apply automatically to married couples. But they can be rather inconvenient or sometimes impossible for unmarried couples to achieve."

Politicians have had just as tough a time getting a gay marriage law passed in Colorado -- and in some ways, civil unions set up a separate-but-equal system that can be equated to school segregation.

If he he had his druthers, then, would Steadman prefer a gay marriage law to one legalizing civil unions? He jokes that "the constitution doesn't allow me my druthers" before saying, "I'm fairly confident the language in our state constitution will not stand the test of time." In the meantime, though, he clearly believes civil unions are far preferable to the status quo. "This is something we can do right now to provide very meaningful protections to families and children," he maintains.

He expects to hear from many civil union supporters this afternoon, and he's upbeat about SB 172's odds of approval in the senate, where Democrats hold a solid majority. "But I'm not quite sure what's going to happen when this bill gets over the House of Representatives," he concedes. "That's something I don't have a lot of control over."

Not that he lacks faith in the measure's house sponsor, Mark Ferrandino. "I'm sure he's going to fight very hard," he says -- and he's hopeful some Republicans will ultimately back the bill. But he concedes that "there are some shrill voices on the extremes that aren't there yet. They'd rather play politics with it."

Page down to read SB 172 in its entirety, as well as to see a video and news release from One Colorado, a civil-unions backer.

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts